San Diego Comic-Con International, also known as Comic-Con International: San Diego, and commonly known as Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic-Con, was founded as the Golden State Comic Book Convention and later the San Diego Comic Book Convention in 1970 by Shel Dorf and a group of San Diegans. It is traditionally a four-day event (Thursday through Sunday — though a three-hour preview night on Wednesday is open to professionals, exhibitors, and some guests pre-registered for all four days) held during the summer in San Diego, California, United States, at the San Diego Convention Center. Comic-Con is both the name of the annual event and the common name of the organization.
Comic-Con International also produces two other conventions, WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo (APE), both held in San Francisco, California. Since 1974, Comic-Con has bestowed its annual Inkpot Award to guests and persons of interest in the industries of popular arts as well as to members of Comic-Con’s Board of Directors and convention committee. It is also the home of the Will Eisner Awards.
|The floor at Comic Con|
Originally showcasing comic books, science fiction/fantasy and film/television (as was evident by the three circled figures appearing in Comic-Con’s original logo), and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as horror, anime, manga, animation, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. The convention is the largest in the Americas, and fourth largest in the world after the Comiket in Japan, the Angoulême International Comics Festival in France, and the Lucca Comics and Games in Italy, filling to capacity the San Diego Convention Center with over 125,000 attendees in 2007.
History and Organization
The convention was founded by Detroit, Michigan-born comics fan Shel Dorf, who in the mid-1960s had mounted the Detroit Triple-Fan Fairs, one of the first commercial comics-fan conventions. When he moved to San Diego, California in 1970, he organized a one-day convention (Golden State Comic-Minicon) on March 21, 1970 “as a kind of “dry run” for the larger convention he hoped to stage. Dorf went on to be associated with the convention as president or manager, variously, for many years until becoming estranged from the organization.
Following the initial gathering, Dorf’s first three-day San Diego comics convention, the Golden State Comic-Con, drew 300 people and was held at the U. S. Grant Hotel from August 1–3, 1970. Other locations in the convention’s early years included the El Cortez Hotel, the University of California, San Diego, and Golden Hall, before being moved to the San Diego Convention Center in 1991. Richard Alf, chairman in 1971, has noted an early factor in the Con’s growth was an effort “to expand the Comic-Con [organizing] committee base by networking with other fandoms such as the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Mythopoeic Society, among others. (We found a lot of talent and strength through diversity)”. By the late 1970’s the show had grown to such an extent that Bob Schreck recalled visiting with his then-boss Gary Berman of Creation Conventions and reflecting, “While [Berman] kept repeating (attempting to convince himself) ‘This show’s not any bigger than ours!’ I was quietly walking the floor stunned and in awe of just how much bigger it really was. I was blown away.”
The convention is organized by a panel of 13 board members, 16 to 20 full-time and part-time workers, and 80 volunteers who assist via committees. Comic Con International is a non-profit organization, and proceeds of the event go to funding it, as well as the Alternative Press Expo (APE) and WonderCon. In September 2010, the convention announced that it would stay in San Diego through 2015.
Along with panels, seminars, and workshops with comic book professionals, there are previews of upcoming feature films, portfolio review sessions with top comic book and video game companies, and such evening events as awards ceremonies and the Masquerade, a costume contest, as well as the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which showcases shorts and feature length movies that do not have distribution or distribution deals.
Traditional events include an eclectic film program, screening rooms devoted to Japanese animation, gaming, programs such as cartoonist Scott Shaw!‘s “Oddball Comics” slide show and animation expert Jerry Beck‘s program featuring TV’s “worst cartoons ever”, as well as over 350 hours of other programming on all aspects of comic books and pop culture.
Like most comic-book conventions, Comic-Con features a large floorspace for exhibitors. These include media companies such as movie studios and TV networks, as well as comic-book dealers and collectibles merchants. Like most comics conventions, Comic-Con includes an autograph area, as well as the Artists’ Alley where comics artists can sign autographs and sell or do free sketches. Despite the name, artists’ alleys can include writers and even models.
Academicians and comic industry professionals annually hold the Comics Arts Conference at Comic-Con, presenting scholarly studies on comics as a medium. Educational forums such as the Comics Arts Conference help Comic-Con maintain its non-profit status.
In the 21st century, the convention has drawn toy and collectibles designers who sell “Comic Con Exclusive” products. Such companies have included Hasbro, Mattel, and Sideshow Collectibles. Most such exclusives are licensed properties of movie, comic book, and animation characters.
In The Media
Comic-Con International has served as the setting for Mark Hamill‘s Comic Book: The Movie, and for an episode of the HBO television series Entourage, the latter of which, while set at the event, was not filmed there. Comic-Con also served as an excuse for the fictional characters Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood‘s trip to Tijuana, Mexico in the first season of TV series The O.C. The convention also featured prominently as a setting for the Numb3rs episode “Graphic“. In Season 4 of Beauty and the Geek, an episode was featured where the contestants traveled to Comic-Con 07 and were given a challenge to create their own superheroes. In an episode of Punk’d, Hilary Swank gets Punk’d after an “attack from talking robot.” In season five episode six of the Showtime show Weeds, attendees from Comic Con 2009 are seen in Silas and Doug’s medicinal marijuana club. It has been reported that a mock up of the external area near Hall D of the Convention Center depicting Comic-Con will be shown in the movie Paul which will be starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Issue #72 of The Invincible Iron Man (published by Marvel Comics in the fall of 1974) was set at the July–August, 1974 Comic-Con at the El Cortez Hotel. The issue features cameos by a few of the special guests.
Mark Evanier on the first Comic-Con venue:
|“I never stayed in the old U.S. Grant [hotel] but it was the scene of the first San Diego Con, which I attended way back in 1970, back when we thought it was mobbed to have 500 comic fans in the same place at the same time. The hotel was undergoing a massive renovation then as well, but was merely upgrading from Extremely Shabby to merely Somewhat Shabby. The place I still miss is the El Cortez Hotel, where the con was held for several years in the seventies. I’d say the place was a dump but that would be demeaning to dumps. Still, it was a fun dump, run by a management that didn’t seem to care all that much what we did to it”.|
Evanier on an early spillover venue:
| “In the seventies, when we all started going to San Diego Comic Book Conventions, back when they called them that, the Hotel San Diego was a frequent venue for con events. Some years, before it outgrew any available hotel ballroom, the Inkpot Awards presentation was held there. There were many memorable parties and gatherings, such as in 1982, when a group of Jack Kirby‘s friends staged a memorable surprise birthday party for him in one of its halls. Perhaps some year, you were either so hard up for money or so desperate for an available room (or both) that you even booked into its sadly deteriorating accommodations. It was one of the cheaper places to sleep and con-goers took advantage of that up until June 2001 when the building was declared structurally unsafe and was closed down”.
Capacity attendance at Comic-Con in 2006 and 2007 has caused crowding issues. Concerns have been raised that the event is possibly too massive for the San Diego Convention Center, Comic-Con’s home through at least 2015. In 2006, Comic-Con for the first time, had to close registration for a few hours on Saturday to accommodate crowds. In response, for 2007, Comic-Con introduced a new three-day membership that did not include Saturday. Nevertheless, the 2007 show went on to sell out Saturday, as well as Friday and Sunday for the first time. Additionally, both the four-day and three-day memberships sold out for the first time. For 2008, the three-day memberships were abandoned and the convention decided to sell memberships only in advance, with no on-site registration.
In 2008, all memberships were sold out before the convention for the first time ever. This sellout has given rise to the new phenomenon of Comic-Con memberships being scalped for exorbitant prices on websites such as eBay.
In April 2008, David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of marketing and public relations, commented on the organization’s desire to remain in San Diego:
“We’ve been approached by other cities, [but] I don’t think anybody wants to leave San Diego. I certainly don’t. It’s a perfect fit for us. It’s expensive, whether it be paying for the street signs that tell you what streets are closed, or for any police or the hall or any of the myriad things, it’s expensive. But it’s a great city. There’s been some talk of expansion of the center, which we would certainly welcome. Hopefully if everything lines up, we will be here for many more years.”
|More characters at Comic Con|
This years COMIC CON runs from July 19th (preview date) to the 23rd. Most of the big news coming out of the weekend – from “Preview Night” on July 19th to getaway day on Sunday the 23rd – will be happening in the Convention Center’s Hall H and Ballroom 20, where the blockbuster movie and big-time TV presentations are held. But anyone who wants to avoid camping out in lines overnight can still get into panels for lesser-known films and shows. Or you can spend time weaving through cosplayers among the vendor booths on the convention floor, or dig the various creative viral marketing gimmicks that tend to spread across several blocks of the city’s bustling Gaslamp Quarter.